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Fear of the Dark Review

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by AVForums Apr 1, 2004 at 12:00 AM

    Achulophobia, I looked it up. It means fear of the dark. You remember when you were a little kid, or maybe a not so little kid, when you were absolutely positive that monsters lurked in your wardrobe or under your bed, which were just waiting for the opportunity to leap out and grab you by the foot, dragging you into the darkness, into their world! Of course you remember, for many of you it was probably last night. For most of us a fear of the dark is a primal thing. It can't be rationalized or explained away. It's a survival instinct, and only subsides once we have found those adult pleasures of alcohol and someone else to share our beds. Even then, if you wake at just the right time of night, hear the wind whistling round the house, and the creak of a floorboard that is probably just the house settling,....but may just be a homicidal maniac, it is hard to resist the urge to draw up your knees to ensure your feet are well under the covers. Why? Because everybody knows that nobody and nothing can harm you when you're under the covers.

    Fear of the Dark is a straight to video, PG-13 movie that tries to play with achulophobia, and in some ways it does a half decent job. Ryan (Jesse James - poor kid) is a 12-year-old boy who suffers with a serious case of achulophobia (I know I've used it 3 times already but I've just looked it up and I'm darned well going to get my moneys worth). He lives with his parents and his elder brother Dale (Kevin Zegers) in a suitable spooky house. A poor choice by the family given it has lots of dark corners, an attic and a cellar, doh! His parents have become social recluses in order to ensure that Ryan is never left alone in the house at night. Tonight, for the first time in years, they plan to go out and leave Dale and his girlfriend, Heather (Rachel Skarsten) in charge. I know what you are thinking; the clichés are coming thick and fast. Well they don't stop there. You see a storm is brewing, cue loud claps of thunder, cue sharp bursts of lightening revealing scary things, cue power cut (I swear the USA must have the most feeble National Grid). Dale is initially scornful of his brother's fears, but his scorn soon turns to scepticism, and ultimately to a grudging acceptance that something funny is afoot. The question is can the kids survive the monsters of the dark before Mom and Dad get home and switch on the lights!!!

    Director K.C Bascombe was clearly working on a limited budget and a limited time frame which is a real shame, because given the time and money to develop this story further I think it would have real legs. It covers the same kind of ground as Darkness Falls, and manages to produce more tension and scares than that movie, with no foul language, teenage sex or blood soaked gore. The monsters are genuinely creepy but they only have a few seconds of screen time, and when they do arrive they are all too easily defeated. Compare this to a similar tale Peter Jackson's The Frighteners which cranked up the tension and maintained it throughout. The film is underdeveloped, and has therefore ended up as a movie of the week rather than the screen hit I think it could have been.